1st Show
by Stephen Campos

When Cream played Atlanta's Chastain Park Amphitheater in October of '68, the city was still abuzz from the bombastic appearance of the Hendrix Experience in August. But from the first opening chord of "White Room," the band showed themselves to be yet another concert milestone for the Atlanta rock crowd with a style and power that would be the blueprint for many a "heavy" band for the next three decades. Their performance on that afternoon gave no hint whatsoever that the group was in fact a mere month away from their "Farewell" at the Royal Albert Hall.

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 Stephen Campos, 2000

I was incredibly lucky to get to watch from the wings. I went along with a friend who was working as a roadie for a local band who were going to play third on the bill, but they got bumped at the last minute due to time restrictions. I didn't care. I was discreetly planted in the wing with my trusty little Instamatic camera, thanking my lucky stars to be where I was. In 1968, "concert security" in Atlanta was nothing more than just a couple of bored city cops standing in the wings probably wondering when they could go home, so we were free to roam around wherever we pleased. I watched the soulful Terry Reid open the show; a good set which the audience received warmly, but just seeing Cream's big Marshalls and the massive drum kit looming behind the Reid group's smaller gear made me all the more excited and anxious for the headliners.


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 Stephen Campos, 2000
Drum miking: announcement plus one betwen the bass drums (note the lead)
"It was so loud that people said they could only hear me when I soloed" (G.B.)

After a short interval I caught a glimpse of the unmistakable Ginger Baker posing with some local DJs on the opposite wing. The trio then walked on to the oohs and ahhs of the audience. The set list was to the best of my recollection very similar to "Live Cream Volume II" minus "Steppin' Out," with the addition of "I'm So Glad, "Toad," "Spoonful" and "Sitting On Top Of The World." I've always regretted that this show wasn't recorded because the group was in fine form that afternoon, wowing the audience repeatedly with their virtuosity which steadily ascended to "Toad's" thundering climax. "I'm So Glad," "Crossroads," and "Sunshine O.Y.L." stand out particularly in my memory. In introducing many of the blues classics in their repertoire, they took care to give credit to the men who wrote the originals, and it was pretty ironic that these supercharged high decibel rockers from Great Britain would be the ones educating the American audience on their own musical legacy. At one point Clapton broke a string on his Firebird (Ginger Baker announcing dryly, "Eric Clapton will now tap dance"), but by the time he got his sunburst Les Paul strapped on the roadie had the Firebird restrung and he switched back. As to whether both Marshall heads were running, he had a splitter cord as seen in my photos, and witnesses later said they could easily hear the concert from outside the arena throughout the big park.

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 Stephen Campos, 2000
The Lesley Box is from the Terry Reid Group
(click on the photo for closeup 240KB!)

A funny footnote to the story: unlike myself back then, my roadie friend wasn't afraid of approaching celebrities. He brought along a friend's Gibson SG guitar and a black ink marker, in hopes that he could get Clapton to sign it. During the long drum solo of "Toad," EC sat behind the amps in a folding chair. I walked along with my friend up to one of the band's guitar cases which was lying on a table in the wing. He opened it for a peek, and I noticed Clapton looking at us. I wanted to disappear, fearing that their roadies would pounce on us and throw us out, but fortunately nothing happened, and I went off and found another nice spot to shoot a final picture. Then, after Cream left the stage and got into their limo I saw in the distance my pushy pal heading towards Clapton as he was about to close the door. I cringed as I heard him demanding "sign it! just sign it!" and sure enough he came back to me proudly showing me the SG with the hurried scrawl of the guitar god. I still wonder what happened to that axe, and how anybody 32 years later could ever prove that it was indeed the genuine article. If by some miracle Clapton could remember that ugly moment, I wouldn't blame him if he denied it completely.

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Stephen Campos, 2000
AND note the tiny PA Cab!
"200 Watts for guitar, 200 for bass, 100 for voice." (J.B. describing an all too common occurrence)

Stephen Campos, 2000

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Courtesy of Barry Gruber